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Global Developments Affecting The Competitivenes Of The Coconut Industry In Fiji

The industry has been declining over the past 40 years or so. In copra equivalent terms production declined from 40,000mt p.a. in the 1960s to less than 20,000mt p.a now. Past efforts by Government over that period to arrest that decline succeeded only in slowing the downward trend. In 1998, Government established the Coconut Industry Development Authority of Fiji (CIDAF) as part of an institutional reform to revive the industry.

Currently, some 6,000 trees exist, 10% of which comprised hybrids planted in 1990s, the rest are local tails two-thirds of which will become unproductive in 20 years. Average yield of trees currently stands at 25 nuts per tree per year. The highest copra production over the past 10 years was 17,000mt in 1998. Cyclone Ami in 2003 caused severe damage to trees and copra production fell to 9506mt. Yield is gradually increasing and copra production forecast for 2006 is !2,000mt. The contribution of the industry to the economy is insignificant compared to tourism, sugar and fisheries. However, the industry is still regarded as important because of the many people (100,000) that rely on it for survival. Hence, Government decision to set up CIDA with a mandate to revive and expand the industry.

 There are many reasons why the industry has been declining over the years but the important ones include the reliance on copra and coconut oil only for export, distance from the market, high cost of production and transport, the lack of product diversification and value adding at farm and industrial levels, lack of promotion, slow replanting to replace aging trees, lack of long term plan to develop a sustainable industry.

The plan now is to develop a 25 year master plan for the industry and to look at the feasibility of developing products for which the market exists. The plan will focus also on the replanting of 6 million trees, rehabilitate existing 2 million trees, replant 0.5million trees for coconut juice, product diversification and value adding, and market promotion.

The anticipated results from the 25 year master plan will include the registration of 20,000 growers and their coconut lands, establishment of planters associations, establishment of small mills to facilitate trading in wholenuts to allow access to all parts of the nut, achievement of product diversification and value adding (coconut wood, VCO, biofuel, coco products etc.) adoption of good farming systems using coconut as base crop (CBFS); and contribution of the industry to the economy to reach $400 million p.a. at least.

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